The Ugliness of Intellectual Fraud:
an Apologist for Communism

Pt 1   Opinion, not Scientific Analysis

Professor Schuman has written a comprehensive volume on Soviet politics that will remain the representative treatise for quite some time to come. An introductory part, subtitled "A Book of Origins," deals with Marxism and its penetration into Russia, with the background and career of Lenin, the history of the Russian Communist movement, and the victory of the revolution, and with those factors of Russian history that still are determinants in the period of Soviet rule. The principal part, "A Book of Peace and War," presents Soviet political history, the development of institutions, and the policies, both foreign and domestic, from the victory of the October Revolution to the end of the Second World War. The concluding part, "A Book of Prospects," deals with the outlines of post-war politics as far as they have become visible and with the probabilities of internal development and foreign relations of the Soviet Union in the future.

The amount of material digested in these more than 600 pages is enormous; and every one who wishes to inform himself on any aspect of Soviet politics (with the exception of economic problems and institutions, which are excluded from treatment) will do well, as a first approach, to consult this volume.

It was not the purpose of the author, however, to present a piece of original research; the scope of the volume reflects rather the intention "to see steadily and to see whole the total fabric of Soviet politics, from the barbarian migrations to the Changchun Railway Co., from Marx in the British Museum to the Soviet Intelligentsia, from peasant rebellions to collective agriculture, from Portsmouth and Brest-Litowsk to Potsdam and Lancaster House." This plan, rather of encyclopedic synthesis than of intensive monographic study, does not, however, prevent the author from treating certain aspects of Soviet constitutional life, to which he draws specific attention (xv), with a thoroughness surpassing earlier attempts.

The materials are presented with the intelligent vivacity that we can expect of Schuman. A conscious care for style is visible. In the formulation of terms and titles the author resorts frequently to the artistic device of alliteration that is known to the reader of his earlier literary productions. We find again such old friends as the forces of fear, fraud, and favors by which rulers keep their subjects in obedience; and we encounter new recherche coordinations like "Cipangu and Cathay" (for Japan and China) reminiscent of Marco's account of his call on the khan at the court of Cambaleschia. The book is written throughout with a deliberate mellowness that will make its message tasteful to many.

Beyond this point the reviewer is somewhat at a loss about a critical evaluation of the volume. It is a book of opinion, not of scientific analysis. The facts are reported correctly, with a few negligible exceptions, but the interpretation does not conform to any standards of scientific method. The objectivity for which the author has striven is not one of science but of political judgment. Under these conditions there is not much sense in stating agreement or disagreement concerning specific propositions, and we might well conclude at this point. Nevertheless, Schuman's approach to politics is of a certain importance both because it is representative of a trend in contemporary political science and because the resulting picture of Soviet politics might influence a considerable public. A few reflections on the author's aims and the means employed in their realization will, therefore, be appropriate.

What the author considers a sympathetic, objective analysis of the Soviet system is in fact a skillful apology. How in good faith is that identification of objectivity with apology possible? It is possible because Schuman proceeds on the tacit assumption that a rational, scientific approach to politics does not exist. People are for or against the Soviet system for emotional reasons, and objectivity consists in striking a middle course between unconditional Marxist praise and unconditional anti-Marxist antipathy. The attitude expresses itself in a complete disregard for the considerable literature on Marxism and Russian events written from a well-elaborated theoretical position.

The reader will search in vain in Schuman's book for a justification of the author's position as against the positions of such writers as Notzel, Gurian, Maritain, or Berdiaev, to take a few examples. Instead he will find the author engaged in achieving a more unbiased view than that provided by the "sick soul" of Max Eastman, or the charming "crypto-Fascist" Clare Luce, or Hiram Johnson "who died, as he lived, in his sleep," or the "Menshevik" Dallin. The author has succeeded, indeed, in steering a safe course between the Scylla of adulatory comrades and the Charybdis of enemies of the system or, as he would perhaps prefer to formulate it, between the Daily Worker and the Dies Committee; still, we shall not be surprised that an objectivity resulting from an equidistance from two parochialisms does not rise very high above the level on which the exaggerated distortions occur. In order to illustrate the result, I shall comment on a few of the points that attracted my attention in the chapter on "The Soviet State."

(1) On pages 291 ff. the author discusses the election system of 1918, with its method of indirect election, under which the lower Soviets send delegates to the next higher, through a hierarchy of four levels, up to the central representation. Schuman compares this system with the indirect election of the United States Senate and president under the constitutional provisions of 1789 and with "the traditional form of American political party organization."

The comparison, which obviously tries to engage the reader's sympathy, is mistaken. In the first place, the Russian indirect system was applied, not to a Senate or president, but to a body that functionally would correspond to the House of Representatives. In the second place, the American indirect election has one level of indirection, and not four like the Russian, for the vast majority of the electorate; and third, the election to a representative legislative body is one thing, while an internal party organization is quite another.

Moreover, the method of election of 1918 is not at all inspired by Western models but is an adaptation of the electoral law of June 3, 1907, which Stolypin devised in order to get rid of the liberal membership of the first and second Dumas. The electoral body was split by Stolypin's law into four colleges:sssss of landowners, urban population, industrial workers, and peasants. The election was made indirect, with three stages for workers, four for the peasants. The electoral procedure of 1918 abolished the landowners and nonproletarian urban population but retained the device for workers and peasants. The arrangement permitted Stolypin to manipulate the representation in the desired direction, and the Communist Party used it with equal success. If I remember the figures correctly, the ratio of Communists to non-Communists at the lowest level of Soviets was 1 to 9, while in the central representation this ratio was inverted. Presumably Schuman chooses to omit this Russian context of the 1918 election procedure because he prefers to arouse in his readers associations with American democratic procedures rather than with the tsarist tricks for the prevention of democracy. The "facts" are rendered "correctly" by the author, but the interpretative wrappings may arouse misgivings among "crypto-Fascists."

Selected Book Reviews
CW Vol 13
[Review: Soviet Politics: At Home and Abroad ,
by Frederick L. Schuman
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1946)]
pp 138-141.